My "Journo-less" Summer...So Far (Part 4 of 8)

Thursday, August 28, 2014
This is the fourth installment for my personal journalism-related observations of the current summer promised, whether you remember it or not, this decade's influence on American culture is still evident today.

4. CNN's The Sixties:

Although my own recollection of this 1960-to-1970 period is primarily of its end years and from a very youthful perspective, I have been mostly entertained by this look back on this 10-year transformational period that produced so much news and nostalgia. This series actually started last November when they aired a two-hour special on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy but they premiered it in an announced 10-part episodic order on May 29th (with that earlier shown offering cut down to an hour). The final episode was supposed to air on August 7th but the scheduled end-date was postponed by one week due to the sheer volume of news due to the eruption of the current Gaza Conflict and the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in contested airspace over eastern Ukraine on July 17th. It was almost pushed back another seven days when the episode airing on August 7th was interrupted about halfway through by President Obama's announcement of US military intervention inside Iraq due to a quickly developing humanitarian crisis involving the Sunni jihadist group ISIS/ISIL. It apparently was rebroadcast in its entirety for West Coast audiences later that same night and in weekend reruns but, unfortunately, I didn't reprogram my DVR to catch that last half hour.

In a collaboration with Academy Award winning producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman and Emmy Award winning producer  Mark Herzog, this CNN original series completed its run earlier this month with programs focusing on what they believed to be the most important events and trends from that decade. It started with the encroachment of television upon our society (a legacy from the 1950s), the Cuban Missile Crisis, the JFK assassination, Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, the British Invasion, the Space Race, the year 1968, changes in gender roles and family settings, and social changes in general.  The Paley Center for Media hosted a private airing of their final episode ("Sex, Drugs, and Rock n' Roll") on August 5th with a post-showing panel hosted by Carl Bernstein (the reporter of Watergate scandal fame).

While I am enjoying the history of the period being presented, I am more intrigued by the "artifacts" from the history of broadcast journalism that they are using to convey those subjects and events. Seeing the anchors and reporters of yesteryear (Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, John Chancellor, Eric Sevareid, Mike Wallace, Morley Saffer, and Dan Rather are just a handful of journalists from that "golden age" of television news) presenting the information as it was shown brought back personal memories of watching the Apollo flights on our 25-inch color console television and the nightly newscasts back when the only place they were available was from "monopoly" of the three major broadcast networks.

Today's dissemination of news and information is so "balkanized" through ideology, platform, and device that the "good old days" when 35 to 40 million viewers routinely watching one of only three nightly news shows would be a current television executive's dream (they currently attract around 23 million and the "gloating" focuses on specific lucrative demographic groups within their total audience numbers). Ratings and ad revenues became their primary objective back in the 1980s and 1990s when news organizations were "corporatized" into the rest of those network's operations (news divisions used to be run at a loss because of the high revenues earned from their entertainment sides). Technological advances like live satellite broadcasts and computers initially helped this industry but further improvements and a greater number of options available to news consumers have, sadly, put broadcast journalism into its current predicament.  That is why watching a series like this was a nice escape (and one that I will miss now that it's over).


Here are the previous postings in this series:

1. The Al Jazeera Reporters
2. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

3. News Glance with Genevieve Vavance

Coming up next...a posthumously released, thinly veiled "tell all" novel kept media tongues wagging for the early part of the summer but it also drew new attention to a career--and a life--that ended far too soon.

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